‘Cirque OLIO’ // Brisbane Festival

‘Cirque O L I O’ was mesmerising.

With the Brisbane Festival now in full swing it’s time to turn things up to eleven and start setting the stage for some of Australia’s, and the world’s, best performers to come to life! Set among the beautiful parklands at the converted-for-purpose Southbank Piazza, the hub of Brisbane Festival was alive with activity ready for the opening night of ‘Cirque O L I O.’

From the masterfully creative team behind ‘Cirque Bon Bon’ comes this new imagining of circus, magic and dance in a family-friendly format that will tickle the senses of young and old alike. They may have stripped back the promiscuousness that audiences have come to love about their shows, but in doing so have certainly not compromised on the quality of talent or level of entertainment they provide. Featuring acts of pain-defying skill, unbelievable magic, tantalising dance and jaw-dropping circus, ‘Cirque O L I O’ was delivered to perfection.

The converted Southbank Piazza was an impressive backdrop for this evening’s performance with a large stage and beautifully decorated wings and set design. Hanging high above the audience was a gorgeous dome lighting rig that had a coloured material flapping in the wing underneath it, illuminating the tables below with specks of bright coloured light.

I’m a sucker for an out-of-theatre performance, which is part of the reason why Brisbane’s Anywhere Theatre Festival is part of my “must attend” list every year, however, I’m not certain that the alluring nature of a burlesque/cabaret/cirque performance is right for an outdoor setting. Lighting plays a huge part in setting the mood for these particular types of shows, and while the lighting that was used looked like it would have been impressive, the drowning light of the outside world washed it out significantly.

I digress though, as the incredible artists we saw on stage well and truly made up for my nit-picking over the lighting. The show opened with a spot of audience participation and magic from our hilarious host and resident ‘clown’ for the evening, which truly got the audience in the right mood for what was to come. Throughout the evening he performed countless tricks that delighted and amazed the young fans in the crowd, and left the adults chuckling at the silly humour.

Connecting a lot of the individual artist performances throughout the evening were six stunning dancers that performed countless numbers, utilising six large, decorated set pieces that somewhat resembled sliding doors. Their beauty and grace held the attention of the crowd with their demonstrated flexibility and high level of skill that was executed brilliantly. Credit must also go to their costume designer for creating their gorgeous outfits that tied in beautifully with the nature of the show.

In a truly unique performance, London-based circus and cabaret star Katrina Louise set the tone of the evening straight out of the gate in a mesmerising and awe-inspiring aerial routine, but not one that anyone was expecting. While silks, hoops, bars, ropes and many other paraphernalia have become somewhat commonplace in cirque, Louise defies the ordinary in a way that soars far above expectations.

Gold Coast artists Duo Synergy have become almost synonymous with cirque performances in Australia with their highly engaging and exciting roller skating act. Their precision movements have to be seen to be believed as they balance and spin each other on skates in a manner that defies common logic. They work flawlessly together, display incredible poise and beauty in their routine, and I can only imagine would have prompted several requests from the kids in the audience for new skates this Christmas!

Continuing to intertwine stunning local acts with international powerhouses, world-renowned LED Cyr Wheel artist Alexandre Lane dropped jaws with his enchanting display of strength and balance. He was controlled in his movements, graceful in his execution and a real show-stopper based on the audience’s response and cheers to his routine.

Aussie Contortionist and acrobatic archer Shannen Jones shocked and delighted the audience, as is to be expected any time she is on stage. Her flexibility has earnt her the title “The girl with no bones,” and rightfully so, as she twisted and contorted into some unbelievable positions. Everyone’s highlight, however, was of course her insane foot archery, which has become a highly sought after act in every variety show.

In an absolutely show stopping performance, Adam Malone wowed audiences with yet another truly unique aerial routine, the second for the night. While I don’t want to give anything away (because it should be seen to be believed), it was unlike anything I have seen in my many, many years of circus-going and was a phenomenal demonstration of balance, skill and out-of-the-box thinking.

A circus without juggling would be about as incomplete as toast without avocado, but when it’s Cody Harington at the helm you better believe that delicious breakfast combo is coming with lemon and feta. He’s quirky, he’s humorous and most importantly he is highly skilled. His hand-eye coordination and balance are unparalleled in the Australian circus space and every time he performs he leaves audiences with their jaws around their ankles.

‘Cirque O L I O’ was a spectacle to behold and one that I was not expecting to enjoy as thoroughly as I did. Every artist was at the top of their game throughout the evening’s performance and while I had seen almost all of the acts before, each one still delighted, surprised and excited the child inside me that loves the wonder of circus.

‘Cirque O L I O’ performed until Friday 23 September 2022 at the Southbank Piazza. For more information visit the Brisbane Festival website.

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